Types of broadband connections in the UK

Broadband is used as a generic term for different kinds of internet connections and services that are available in the UK. It enables you to gain access to the email, online shopping and services, data and information, and streaming TV at high speed. In the UK, broadband was introduced in the early 2000’s. It was offered through BT phone lines, which allowed users to use the service without having to connect or disconnect whenever they wanted to use it. Moreover, it was independent of the telephone service, enabling people to make phone calls and use the internet simultaneously.

Different Types of Broadband Available in the UK

Over the years, broadband has developed significantly in several ways, resulting in the emergence of its different forms, each having subtle unique features that differs them from each other. In the UK, there are several types of broadband connections available, and the location of your home or office is a major decisive factor regarding which type will be suitable for you. The choice of the type of broadband is also influenced by the speed and reliability of the connection that you want. The following are the most common types of broadband available in the UK:


This type of broadband connection transmits data using fibre-optic cables and requires a special modem that is connected to a telephone line or a TV receiver. The largest cable broadband service provider in the UK is Virgin Media, while other service providers include Plusnet, TalkTalk, Sky, and BT. Cable connection provides you with a maximum speed of 120Mbps, and is the most reliable and fastest connection available in the UK. Its speed is affected by the type of fibre connection you have, but unlike ADSL connections, distance doesn’t have any effect on its speed. Moreover, it doesn’t require you to have a working phone line.


Asymmetric Digital Subscriber Line (ADSL) uses a standard BT phone line to transmit data and is the original type of broadband. About 80 percent of people connect to the internet in the UK using ADSL or ADSL2+ connection, mainly because it is widely available and quite easy to set-up. This type of broadband connection requires users to have a working telephone service, along with a modem. It works by dividing your phone line into two separate channels, one for telephone and the other for the internet data transfer, allowing you to use both the services at the same time.
The maximum speed that you can get is 24Mbps, that too with ADSL2+ connection. The speed you get is affected by several factors such as the distance of your home or office from the telephone exchange, the time of the day, the contention ratio of the telephone line, and the quality of telephone cabling. These connections are quite cheap and easy to set-up, which is the reason why they are preferred by most internet users in the UK.


Mobile broadband is another popular form that uses the resources of the mobile network to connect users to the internet. Although this isn’t the fastest and cheapest form of broadband, most people still prefer it because it provides convenience of using the internet on their handheld devices. It allows people to access email, web, and shop online wherever there are mobile phone signals available. In some cases, it is the only form of broadband that is available in remote areas. In terms of speed and functionality, mobile broadband is divided into two types:

  • 3G – Due to the increasingly popularity and usage of handheld devices and their applications requiring internet connection, 3G was introduced. It allows users to access the internet through their mobile phones wherever there are mobile phone signals available. Mobile phone networks such as O2, Vodafone, and Three provide mobile broadband through a MiFi unit, a mobile broadband dongle, or a tethered mobile device. You can expect to get a maximum speed of 21Mbps. The speed is affected by several factors such as the time of day, the type of Mifi/dongle/mobile phone you use, availability of mobile signals, and your location.
  • 4G – It is quite similar to 3G, but is better in various aspects. It uses latest broadband technology and allows you to use the internet at a much faster speed.

Fibre Optic

In fibre optic broadband, the data is transmitted using light through fibre optic cables. The internet speed is exceptionally fast and is not affected by distance or any other factors. However, most fibre optic broadband service providers don’t come all the way to your location and set-up the connection only a few hundred yards over coaxial cable or conventional BT phone lines. They use Fibre To The Cabinet (FTTC) broadband and connect it to the nearest BT street cabinet, establishing the connection using your normal phone line. Some major broadband companies, like Virgin Media, use a similar method and establish the connection using coaxial cables. The service provider may use Fibre To The Property (FTTP) broadband, but this method is not very popular.


This type of broadband is the only one that you may be able to use anywhere in the UK. It connects users to the internet through geostationary satellites and requires a satellite dish to direct the signals. However, the only drawback of this broadband is that it is very expensive as compared to other forms in terms of setup and running costs.

Local Loop Unbundling (LLU)

The working principle of LLU is quite similar to ADSL, but the broadband service provider uses their own equipment at the telephone exchange instead of rented ones from BT to offer services. In the past, this form of broadband was considered to be better than ADSL as it provided higher speed and cost less, but over time, BT improved ADSL and offered the same level of services as LLU providers.
All of the above mentioned types of broadband are available in the UK, and depending on your needs and your location, you can use them in combination as well.

Types of broadband connections in the UK